Geotechnical Laboratory’s guide to AGS data – Part I

The speed with which consultants are able to analyse and plot laboratory data is the main reason why AGS data is being requested more frequently in laboratories working on medium to large construction projects.    For a significant number of laboratories the production of AGS data is causing a number of problems but these can be easily avoided if the requirements are clearly thought out at the start of a project.

This article highlights the two most common problems and details the best way laboratories can benefit from AGS data.

The data contained within an AGS file generated by a laboratory can be split into two broad categories; sample data and test data.

The sample data is generally passed to the laboratory from the customer and consists of location data and sample parameters.   This data is traditionally supplied to the laboratory either via an Excel schedule sheet or simply via a paper hard copy.

The test data are the results that the laboratory has produced from the tests carried out.  Each set of test parameters is linked back to the source sample, using 4 reference parameters; Location ID, Top Depth, Type and Reference Number.  If more than one test has been carried out on a sample then a unique specimen number and/or depth are assigned to each test to make it uniquely identifiable.

The two biggest AGS related problems that laboratories have are:-

  • Maintaining the clients sample reference data
  • Developing a system that enables the lab to produce AGS 3 or AGS 4 data from a project without re-keying the test data.

Part I of this article will deal with the first of these problems.  A Part II of this article will address the second problem.

Sample References.

The biggest single cause for AGS data disputes between consultants and laboratories is that the returned test data references samples that do not exist in the client’s data.  This is caused either by the laboratory incorrectly entering and storing the client’s data or the client changing the reference data after they have supplied it to the laboratory.


The laboratory’s job is therefore to ensure that it does not change the client’s references.Further, if the client changes the references the laboratory can prove without doubt that the problem lies with them and not the data produced.

The secret to avoiding both of the above scenarios is to get the sample data from your client in an electronic format, preferably in AGS format.

The majority of customers who ask for AGS as a deliverable will be able to produce their sample and location data in AGS data format when they schedule their testing.  I always say to laboratory managers “If they ask for AGS data then you ask for AGS data at the start of the project”.

Once you have the AGS data it is important that you keep a copy of the file to send back to them.  Let me repeat that-  you are going to send the very same file back to them at the end of the project!

The next step is to produce your test data in AGS format, but do not include the location and sample tables in your exported AGS file.  If your software does not allow you to exclude this information you can delete the SAMP and HOLE table from the file using a text editor.  (Note in AGS 4 format the HOLE data is stored in LOCA table).

You now have two AGS files, one with the sample data in it and one with the test data in it. You then run these files through an AGS checker together as one submission.  There are a couple of free AGS checkers available and these are listed on the AGS website, but one that allows you to check multiple files together is KeyAGS.

If the AGS checker finds errors with the sample referencing between the files then the laboratory has entered the data incorrectly and these errors will need to be fixed before you submit the data to your client.  If there are no errors with the data then you can send both files to the client and know that if they come back with sample referencing problems in the file then these problems were caused by the client .   You will know this for a fact as you sent them their own file back in exactly the same format they sent it to you.

Getting sample data in electronic format.

Not all of the laboratory’s clients will be able to provide AGS sample data.  However it is still possible for the laboratory to benefit internally by using the AGS format with these clients.

There are tools available, such as KeyAGS Professional, that will create AGS data from a spreadsheet and this allows the laboratory to send out a schedule spreadsheet that is set up to work with KeyAGS and ask the client to complete their scheduling by filling in this spreadsheet.  Once complete, this spreadsheet can easily be converted to AGS data once it has been received by the laboratory.

The data can then be imported into an AGS compatible laboratory management system, such as KeyLAB, without having to rekey the data.  This saves the laboratory a lot of administration time and reduces the errors from re-keying the client’s data.

Electronic Scheduling has been introduced in AGS 4 and so it is now possible to get the client to do all your scheduling for you using a simple spreadsheet.  This allows the laboratory manager to import the samples and the client’s testing requirements within a few minutes no matter how large the project.  In some laboratories this single improvement in data handling will save them around a man year of time each year.

Benefits for the Laboratory

AGS data is often seen as a hassle and costly request from a client.  However if the laboratory focuses on the benefits that AGS data can provide the laboratory at the start of a project then it can save them a large amount of time in setting up projects by getting their client to do the data entry for them.

If the simple procedure, outlined in this article, is also followed then the laboratory should never be involved with sample referencing disputes with their clients.

All that is left to do is to ensure that test results can easily be converted to AGS data at the end of the testing stage and I will cover this part of the process in my next article.

About the Author

Dr Roger Chandler is the Managing Director of Keynetix and has served on the AGS data management committee for 15 years.  Keynetix produce a wide range of AGS compatible software such as KeyLAB, KeyAGS and HoleBASE SI.  For more information please visit


Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>